ShareThis Page
Obituary Stories

Irwin man stood watch during the Cold War

Jacob Tierney
| Tuesday, March 6, 2018, 3:36 p.m.
James B. Whalen, 79, of Irwin, died Sunday, March 4, 2018.
James B. Whalen, 79, of Irwin, died Sunday, March 4, 2018.

When Americans feared Soviet bombs would rain on Pittsburgh and other cities, National Guardsmen such as James Whalen of Irwin stood watch through the height of the Cold War.

Whalen helped man the Army's Nike Ajax Guided Missile System, which defended Pittsburgh from Soviet aircraft in the 1950s and '60s.

“It's like a forgotten part of the Cold War,” said his son, Jason Whalen. “Those guys who did their jobs never got recognition.”

Mr. Whalen didn't want recognition.

He rarely talked about his time in the National Guard, preferring to focus on his family.

“He was the best guy in the world. He was a good husband, a good father,” said his wife, Helen Whalen.

James B. Whalen, 79, of Irwin died Sunday, March 4, 2018, at UPMC McKees­port hospital.

He was born on Nov. 18, 1938, in North Huntingdon, a son of the late Eugene F. Jr. and Anna (Kling­ensmith) Whalen.

Mr. Whalen worked as a machinist for Penn State Tool and Die.

He was a quiet, intelligent man who enjoyed reading about history.

“He was very quiet, but he took in everything. He said, ‘When you talk you aren't learning,' ” his wife said.

After retirement, he traveled across the country and around the world with his wife, his brother Jack Whalen, and Jack's wife, Deb.

“We just did everything together, and we had such good times. Laughed a lot, met a lot of good people,” his wife said.

He was a member and officer of numerous social organizations, including Loyal Order of Moose 236, of Irwin; the American Legion Post 359, of Irwin; the Italian Miners Club, Hahntown; and the Fraternal Order of Eagles 844 in Jeannette.

He enjoyed watching NASCAR, football, golf and “Jeopardy.”

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Helen (Shaffer) Whalen; two sons, James Whalen Jr. of North Huntingdon and Jason Whalen of Greensburg; and five grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Ott Funeral Home, 805 Pennsylvania Ave., Irwin.

Parting prayers will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday in the funeral home, followed by a 9:30 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial at Immaculate Conception Church. Interment will follow in Twin Valley Memorial Park, Delmont.

Memorial donations may be made to the Relay For Life of Norwin, c/o American Cancer Society, 510 Pellis Road, Suite 203, Greensburg, PA 15601, or to Immaculate Conception Church, 308 Second St., Irwin, PA 15642.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me